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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Cancer 1/2015

Downregulation of toll-like receptor 4 induces suppressive effects on hepatitis B virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma via ERK1/2 signaling

BMC Cancer > Ausgabe 1/2015
Yiting Wang, Jing Cai, Xiaoli Zeng, Yajie Chen, Wei Yan, Yuming Ouyang, Dan Xiao, Zhiming Zeng, Long Huang, Anwen Liu
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

YW carried out the molecular genetic studies, participated in the sequence alignment and drafted the manuscript. YO, DX and ZZ carried out the biological functions. XZ, YC and WY participated in the detection of signaling. JC and LH participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis. AL conceived of the study, and participated in its design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major risk factor which can lead to development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we aimed to explore the effects of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) downregulation on the growth and survival of HBV-related HCC cells and to examine the molecular mechanisms been involved.


The expression levels of TLR4 were examined in a panel of HCC cell lines (HepG2, SMMC7721, Huh7, HepG2.2.15 and Hep3B). The effects of TLR4 downregulation on the proliferation, apoptosis, and tumorigenicity of HBV-related HepG2.2.15 cells were determined. The effects of TLR4 downregulation on multiple signaling pathways were also measured. Co-immunoprecipitation and immunofluoresence staining assays were performed to investigate the interaction between TLR4 and HBV X protein (HBx).


The mRNA and protein levels of TLR4 were significantly increased in HepG2.2.15 cells than those in the other cells which have been studied. Downregulation of TLR4 significantly decreased the proliferation and induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in HepG2.2.15 cells. TLR4 depletion inhibited HepG2.2.15 cell colony formation and tumor growth in nude mice. TLR4 silencing decreased the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 but not JNK1/2, p38, or NF-κB. Chemical inhibition of ERK1/2 approximately phenocopied the growth-suppressive effect of TLR4 downregulation on HepG2.2.15 cells. In addition, TLR4 showed a physical interaction with HBx.


Taken together, TLR4 plays a tumor-promoting role in HBV-related HCC cells, which is associated with regulation of ERK1/2 activation and interaction with HBx. Therefore, TLR4 may be a potential therapeutic target for HBV-related HCC.
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